On thinking about the events in Ukraine recently, Scotland and its independence referendum came to my head. They might be two unrelated subjects prima facie but dig a bit deeper and both nations have commonalities. The two countries have their own language (although English is the official language in Scotland, Gaelic is also spoken), their own flag, traditions and identity. In the case of Ukraine they have the painful reminder of having been part of the former Soviet Union. Scotland is still joined to the United Kingdom by the hip. Or the head, if you look at a map of Britain.
I guess that what’s surprised me about the referendum that will take place in Scotland in the autumn of the current year is how strong opinions on this issue have been. It is not that I have not come across nationalist sentiments before in relation to this territory that lies north of the border with England. It is just that I never took them 100% seriously. Sure, there has always been animosity towards the English which usually comes out when both countries battle it out in the football or rugby theatre of war. But, unlike the northern Irish and their IRA campaign, Scots did not look as if they were about to take their bid for independence up to the next level.
|What if the rest of the UK follows?|
Besides Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics, the only other example that comes to mind of a nation or nations seeking autonomous status is the regions of Galicia, the Basque Country and Cataluña in Spain. Every time I travel to the Iberian nation I never cease to be amazed at how self-assertive and proud of their cultural heritage gallegos, Basques and catalanes are. The Spanish situation, however, is different to the Scottish one. For starters, the UK has never had to endure a dictatorship as harsh as Franco’s. The fascist despot clamped down on autochthonous languages such as Euskera, the Basque language. As far as I know Gaelic has never been banned. There is a different type of dilemma in Britain, however: that of the Southeast versus the rest of the country. Britons might not have had their own version of Franco; yet, those regions that lie beyond the M25 are sometimes seen through the prism of condescension and ignorance. It is no secret that most of the wealth in the UK is concentrated in the Southeast, mainly in London, but what is lesser known is that a lot of that wealth is produced outside London.
That could be the main reason for the referendum on Scottish independence and eventually total autonomy: to relocate the economic centre to Holyrood, away from Westminster. Scotland has access to vast reserves of oil and gas in the North Sea, enough to last for the next two decades with the right attitude. Factor in a Tory-led coalition in Britain and suddenly the “yes” vote looks no longer like a crazy option.
That’s all on the Scottish side. What about the English one? By that I do not mean politicians, broadcasters and Sunday columnists. I mean the average Joe and Joanna Public. Based on my totally unofficial, mini-survey of half a dozen (English) people to whom I have spoken on the subject, I have found that they don’t give a damn about what happens in September in Scotland. Most shrugged the shoulders, whilst others just said: ”It’s up to them, isn’t it? If they want out, it’s their problem." Hardly water-cooler stuff.
There is a problem with that theory, though. As I mentioned before I never thought that Scottish nationalism might one day lead (probably) to independence. If that is possible in a country that is so far away, albeit with its own flag and identity, what could happen closer to home in England? Suddenly Cornwall doesn’t look safe anymore. After all they have their own Cornish flag and have their own language. They would still have to sort out the number of townies (especially from the Southeast, ironically!) coming in, buying property and either using it as holiday accommodation or letting it out and using it as a second source of income. What about Tyneside? Would we perhaps be looking at a future Geordie Republic of the Northeast? Cumbria, too, has much more in common with Scotland than with England and it is closer to the former. How about Cumbria coming under the aegis of Scotland?
Ultimately, the whole Scottish independence issue is a gamble. The “no” camp is relying on a familiar, but uninspiring choice (especially with Cameron still at No. 10), whilst Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and first minister of Scotland offers a leap of faith into the future for those who want to vote "yes" in September. The only problem is that that future is uncertain. Which way would you go?
Photo taken from telegraph.co.uk
Next Post: “Food, Music, Food, Music, Food, Music... Ad Infinitum”, to be published on Wednesday 12th March at 11:59pm (GMT)